June 12th, 2017
A Review by Chris Fried
The Republic army is sending a bunch of its soldiers on a diplomatic mission to the planet of Kublar. The Legionnaires, an elite special fighting force, is sent as well. Ostensibly there to help make peace with the natives and broker an agreement for resource development, the soldiers are there to protect the Republic forces on this mission. Venturing into hostile territory on their vehicles, they get twitchy when they see the natives gathering along their route. But there are rumblings that the Mid-Core Rebels are secretly supporting a sect of the Kublar forces. When a tense situation erupts into violence, will they succeed in their mission or will they die trying?
The Legionnaires are elite soldiers for a reason, as one of them is worth a hundred regular men with their training, tactics, and deadliness. Outfitted with custom armor, artificial intelligence in their form fitting helmets, they are a formidable fighting force to be reckoned with. This is proven repeatedly as they fight against odds that are stacked against them. With each battle they engage in, we see why they are the best. Whether it’s against the natives, dealing with strange alliances, powerful weapons, surprise turnabouts and unexpected setbacks, they do their best to adapt and win.
This is not just a straightforward story, as some military science fiction can be. Your typical genre novel can fall into the trap of feeling like a video game, where you see a gun bounce around your screen as bad guys pop into and out of your field of vision. It’s also easy to be desensitized to the violence on your screen as you blow away bad guys. But this novel is more complex and layered than that simplistic description.
“We’re standing in the midst of proably one hundred and fifty koobs. There’s nothing to do but open up on them. If the warning croak of the koob I shot didn’t alert the others to our presence, assuming they can even hear, the deluge of blaster fire will do the trick. I discharge my N-4, and in this target-rich environment, I go through two charge packs in less than a minute.”
These battles are won by boots on the ground, developing strategies on the fly, working together as a team to take down the enemy. These scenes are intense and riveting, as we experience each struggle to survive through the eyes of Sergeant Chhun as he takes down one enemy after another while trying to avoid being killed. You cannot help but feel your pulse race in these scenes, as your breath quickens and you move your head to avoid getting it shot off your shoulders, as I did while being engrossed by each page I read.
Each battle is different, each one presenting a different challenge for Victory Company to overcome and the quality of the writing here is where the author, Jason Anspach, shines the most. The strategy used to win these battles is multifaceted and fascinating as the problems multiply. Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy but how they adjust to each brutal engagement and try to win is part of the suspense.
By the time you’ve reached the end of the novel, you feel like you’ve served along with their forces, as the story immerses you so deeply into it. You experience the recoil of the weapon in your hand, feel the heat of the battle sear your skin and smell the carnage around you as you face off against the enemy. The brotherhood of your fellow soldiers bonded together and forged in battle, you don’t just become emotionally involved. You personally experience fighting for each other, your loyalty towards one another and you are inducted into the Legionnaires by proxy as you read. You are of one of them as you feel the weariness and relief as the battle ends, you assess your casualties, check your supplies and figure out what your next step is. Ooah.
What I liked was the main character, Sergeant Chhun, and why he fights and whom he fights for. It’s not just a shoot ‘em up story, it’s about the men you fight with and we clearly see why he feels this way. It’s one thing to say it and another to see that motivation demonstrated effectively in the novel. The soldiers are disillusioned with the politics that surround the officers who serve with them, including the cowardly Captain Devers, who is the man you come to hate for multiple reasons as you will see.
Each soldier, whether minor or major, gets a chance to shine and differentiate themselves from the others. Their pasts, their training, how it all shapes their present worldview and their duty to one another has molded them into Victory Company. Each one of them is an individual but collectively, they are an almost unstoppable force. These soldiers are not just killing machines, they feel when they make mistakes and assess the battlefield for any advantage they can get. You can see how each battle scars them, their determination and grit evident in their plight no matter how bad it gets as tanks battle and air support rains hell down on the battlefield.
The Kublar are also cunning warriors and are not easy to subdue or defeat. Their culture is fleshed out with just enough detail to see what their motivations are, helping you understand their thought processes and see just how alien they really are. From their different clans to alliances they develop, these creatures fight with a ferocity that proves their mettle against the Legionnaires. This is especially apparent in the final battle of the novel, in which everything is thrown at the Legionnaires in the hopes of eradicating them once and for all.
Just when I thought the novel was over and I thought I could relax, it’s punctuated with a spellbinding epilogue written by Nick Cole, adding an exclamation point to the story. It regales us with an enrapturing tale of the military machine wrongly used for political gain and how it affected one soldier for the rest of his life. You viscerally feel the impact of this story deep in your gut at the horrors described here, providing additional context to what it’s like to be a soldier working for a large galactic government.
You know you have a fantastic story on your hands when you start reading faster than your usual speed because you can’t wait to see what happens next. As a result, this novel is military science-fiction at its best.
This story is the first in a series of novels taking place in a universe called Galaxy’s Edge. This universe was developed as a counterpoint to Star Wars and its sprawling saga. For example, stormtroopers in Star Wars have very poor aim and weak armor. However, in this universe, the stormtrooper equivalent is the Legionnaire, with pinpoint aim and strong armor, feeling like a legitimate threat instead of cannon fodder. As a result, it feels like Star Wars with its fresh take on space opera but it’s not Star Wars. It is a unique entity, with a history and continuity all its own. Written and developed by these two authors, I tremendously look forward to seeing what they write next. This is a universe full of promise and adventure and I will eagerly get on board to see where they take me next.
Also, if you found this review to be helpful, please take a moment to click on the link and head on over to Amazon to let them know by marking it as helpful. You can do so here.
Don’t forget to check out our podcast episode where Jason Anspach & Nick Cole stopped by to talk about the Galaxys Edge series. You can find it here.